Labour members call for immediate ‘open selection’ to choose Newham mayoral candidate

by Dave Hill

Labour Party members in Newham having asked the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to order an immediate open selection contest for choosing their candidate for May’s mayoral election in the borough, rather than re-running the disputed “trigger ballot” that initially saw the incumbent Sir Robin Wales go forward automatically for the role.

Newham Labour councillor Julianne Marriott reported on Twitter yesterday that she had emailed the NEC with the request, stating that she does not believe “a re-run of the trigger ballot is in the best interest of Newham residents”. Her fellow Labour councillor Charlene McLean has written a letter to Labour’s general secretary Iain McNicol in her capacity as chair of West Ham Consitutency Labour Party making the same appeal on behalf of herself and her fellow CLP officers.

The interventions follow Labour’s acting Greater London regional director Neil Fleming informing local members last week that the original trigger ballot – or affirmative nomination process – which was held in autumn 2016 would be re-run from regional level following claims that there had been a number of irregularities in its administration by the party’s local campaign forum and a resulting legal challenge when the NEC failing to investigate them.

Fleming did not give a date on which the re-run trigger ballot would start and there are concerns locally that conducting it and then completing a possible ensuing open selection contest should Sir Robin fail to secure the majority he needs for automatic re-selection would create unmanageable time and organisational pressures with the election only four months away, and accentuate tensions within the local membership.

Re-selection processes for sitting Labour councillors have yet to be completed, meaning that ordinary members are already being asked to absorb campaign literature and attend special meetings. The original mayoral trigger ballot process took approximately five weeks to complete.

McLean’s letter expresses concerns that “there is no longer sufficient time” in which to run a new trigger ballot process and any open selection contest that might follow, adding the view that “it is the Labour Party’s delay in addressing our concerns which has created this urgency”.

She also reminds McNicol that West Ham CLP, one of the two CLPs in Newham, passed a vote of no confidence in the original trigger ballot process in January 2017, reaffirming this the following November, and says there has been “no constructive engagement” with them on the issues raised.

Elaborating on her reasons for writing to the NEC on Twitter, Marriott expressed her personal expectation that “a re-run trigger ballot will go to open selection” and that this would result in a delay in Newham residents “knowing who [the] Labour candidate is [and] what they stand for”. She added that she thinks a new trigger ballot and possible wider media coverage of it “unlikely to be positive experience for residents and members”.

Sir Robin is seeking an unprecedented fifth term as Newham’s Mayor, having previously been leader of the council under the previous local government system in the borough. Labour’s political dominance in Newham is such the eventual winner of the internal candidate selection contest is almost certain to go on to become the borough’s Mayor in May.

This article was updated on 8 January at 17:25 to include details from the west Ham CLP letter. Previous coverage of the Newham trigger ballot dispute can be read here.

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